It is a disgrace that the government delayed the announcement of its decision on granting the National Farmers’ Union permission to use neonicotinoid seed treatments until after parliament had gone into recess. No surprise, given it had already suppressed publication of the agenda and minutes of the expert committee on pesticides meeting on 20 May. This is a government that also ignores the advice of its chief scientific adviser. On 14 May he called a recent Swedish field trial on rapeseed treated with neonicotinoids – which showed a decline in both the number of wild bees and bumblebee colonies – “an important contribution to the evidence base” on their impacts. Lib Dems believe this derogation for farmers by our government undermines the welcome 2013 EU ban on these bee-harming chemicals. Kate Parminter Deputy leader, Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords
This is a major step forward for the UK. According to the feasibility study, gains from the domestic supply of converting low value waste to high value transport fuel could be worth up to £130 million gross value added to the UK by 2030, and potentially up to £500 million per year including exports. Therefore, I believe that using our world class research capabilities, this competition will provide real opportunities for UK businesses to become a global leader in this market.
Originally announced by the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Norman Baker MP last August, the £25 million of capital funding, supported by significant private sector investment, is designed to achieve the construction of up to 3 demonstration-scale advanced biofuel plants in the UK. Awards will be made in 2015 and the funding will be available until 2018.
Relative to first-generation biofuels (those made from traditional crops, starch, sugars or vegetable oil), advanced fuels could deliver greater carbon savings without the same concerns around food security and land use change. Advanced fuel technologies have the potential to reduce our reliance on imported energy, by turning unwanted waste products into valuable transport fuel.
Alongside the competition, the Department for Transport has also established a Transport Energy Taskforce to consider options for supporting advanced biofuels through policy mechanisms. We are also supporting a sub target at EU level.
Expressions of Interest are now being sought from potential bidders until 13 February 2015, short-listed projects will then be invited to submit full proposals.
Three organisations in Wales will benefit from a share of £5 million of funding from the UK Government and industry to develop innovations to solve some of the world’s greatest agricultural challenges such as food security and sustainability, weed control and livestock disease.
Of the thirteen awards being made across the UK, three are being awarded to projects with Welsh organisations at the helm. These are:
Exploring pearl millet variation to produce improved bread products for diabetics (lead by Aberystwyth University)
Decreasing food waste through the control of fruit flies in Asia and Africa (lead by Russell IPM Ltd. UK, Flintshire
Developing rice resistant to two major diseases to help food security in Asia (Bangor University)
This is the second round of funding to be distributed through the £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst, announced as part of the UK Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies in July 2013. The Agri-Tech Catalyst is designed to support collaborative research between scientists and businesses to springboard projects from the lab to the market place.
The funding has been welcomed by Lib Dem Wales Office minister Baroness Randerson:
Wales has a proud farming tradition and it is wonderful to see that we remain at the forefront of agricultural development. These three Welsh projects benefiting from this UK Government funding are exciting ones which will result in very real benefits for people across the world and, by selling these products worldwide, we can maintain Wales’ position at the heart of global innovation.
This is all part of our plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in Wales.
We are very proud to be supporting such worthwhile and innovative ventures.